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Students demand transparency and communication from administration

By Sajedah Al-khzaleh
News Editor

At the April Board of Trustees Meeting, the public voiced concerns they felt Chancellor Juan Salgado, who will take office May 1, should address.  

Tony Johnston, president of Cook County College Teachers Union Local 1600, advised new leadership under Salgado to reconsider their focus on graduation rates because it overlooks the needs of some students interested in attending City Colleges of Chicago.

There was a mentioned goal upon electing Salgado to increase graduation rates from 17 to 25 percent by the year 2019, according to Johnston. However, Local 1600 does not think the goal caters to the other students who may want to take courses at CCC,  according to Johnston. He mentioned the students who want to better their skills, need certain courses for a job, or are students from neighboring universities that want to take affordable summer courses.

“These are examples of students whose needs we have served but have not come out with a degree or certificate,” he said. “They are classified as failures or an outlier in measuring success.”

He recommended a more nuanced approach to measuring success than counting diplomas and certificates.

“In an open enrollment community college, we [Local 1600] believe there is much more to student success than graduation rates,” he said. “Because of our broad mission [statement], we have different types of students.”

Faith Hymns, a last semester student at Truman college, spoke on how reinvention hindered her academic year after it forced her to leave Olive-Harvey, her first college, to complete her Education major.

“[Reinvention] removed me from my community and almost caused me my failure at CCC overall,” Hymes said.

She was told that under this reinvention regime, she would have to travel an hour and a half north to  to uptown if she wanted to continue studying Education, according to Hymes.

“Two years later, I now know  that the presented information [was] untrue as I have spoken with countless Education and Early Childhood Development students who will be graduating this spring from Olive- Harvey,” she said.

The miscommunicated information has costed Hymes about 800 dollars commuting from the southside to the northside, according to Hymes. Financial aid staff were also unhelpful, often offering “condescending” replies to her financial situation and redirecting her to “outdated” policy manuals.

“All I ever wanted to do was get a proper education,” she said.

Her advice for the new leadership is to communicate and deliver the most accurate information to students academically and financially, and to better train their staff on any new changes.

Some members of Student Government Association also spoke at the meeting, asking for more transparency and communication from future leaders. Kevin Woo, who is at his last term as president of SGA at Harold Washington College, was the first to speak on this.

Woo spoke on district’s 2015 decision to increase student tuition, describing it as an “abrupt” decision  that “shocked the student population.”

Woo supported the board’s decision at the time, indicating  that he “understood the financial situation” CCC was facing.

However, the decision for the tuition hike is critical because it was not placed until the summer semester when students were not on campus, according to Woo.

“I address the concern that the effort to communicate with the students should be made on district’s own behalf because by that time students were not satisfied,” Woo said.

“Show the students compassion as leaders of higher education,” he said. “Let them feel that their voice is heard...Even as a president of SGA of this year, I feel that  my voice is not heard either.”

Though this is Woo’s last term as SGA president, it was important for him to address this issue with district, he said.

“I didn’t want the new administration, SGA, to struggle the same way we had to,” he said. “The theme of lack of communication is the thing I've been thinking about [the] entire academic year...it’s at the very core of all the problems CCC is having.”

Several SGA members across the city colleges worked together to create a new mandate that provides “transparent guidelines” for district. The mandate was presented by Richard Daley College SGA member, Eric Navarro, and Wilbur Wright College SGA president, Jocelyn Ramirez.

Meanwhile, Athena Guizar,  SGA senate chair at HWC repeated her request from the March board meeting, which asked for a full breakdown of tuition and finances.

“The current financial state of affairs is due to lack of transparency and lack of management of finances,” she told the board. “[It] shows lack of confidence in not just us as students, but in your ability to transfer knowledge.”

Samer Hassan, new SGA president at HWC announced to the board that he will focus next semester on clubs receiving necessary funds.

“Does this board and district want to be known as  the City Colleges of Chicago that doesn't even know their students exist, or does this board and district want to be known as the City Colleges that gave their students the resources they needed to succeed in life,” he said.

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